BREAKING: Gov’t releases Canadian pastor jailed for welcoming people to church
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EDMONTON, Alberta, March 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Canadian Pastor James Coates, who was jailed for holding church services amid COVID lockdowns, will soon be released from prison. His legal team announced today that Crown prosecutors agreed to drop most of the charges.
“The Justice Centre today announced that Crown Prosecutors have agreed to withdraw all but one of the Public Health Act offences that Pastor James Coates has been charged with. The Justice Centre expects Pastor Coates will be released from jail in the coming days, without any conditions, pending his May 3-5 trial in Provincial Court,” said Coates’ legal team, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) in a press release.
Coates and his Grace Life Church located in Spruce Grove, Alberta, are being represented by the JCCF. Today’s news comes only a few weeks after an Alberta court judge on March 5 dismissed an appeal to Coates’ bail conditions, which would have kept him behind bars until his trial date.
Coates has been in jail since February 16 at the Edmonton Remand Centre for defying local COVID health orders in Alberta, after refusing to agree to bail conditions which block his release unless he agrees to not hold church services amid severe coronavirus lockdowns.
According to the JCCF, crown prosecutors have now agreed that Coates can be “released without conditions,” and have withdrawn all but one of his Public Health Act charges.
“Prosecutors have also agreed to withdraw the criminal charge in connection with the condition imposed by RCMP on February 7, and instead have charged Pastor Coates $100 for breaching the condition, which Pastor Coates has agreed to pay,” said the JCCF.
The JCCF said in its press release that the one remaining charge against Coates, “has not been withdrawn,” as the legal team and Coates “want the matter heard at trial, to determine the constitutionality of the public health order that churches only hold worship services at 15% capacity, and to compel the government to produce scientific evidence that might support these violations of Charter freedoms.”
On Sunday, February 14, Coates held a church service in violation of a January 29 order by Alberta Health Services (AHS) demanding that the church doors remain shut. It was shortly after this date that he was jailed.
The head of the JCCF, John Carpay, said in the press release that imposing a bail condition on Coates, according to which he was essentially prohibited from practicing his faith, was “unconstitutional.”
“The condition that Pastor Coates effectively stop doing his job as a pastor by adhering to unscientific and unconstitutional public health restrictions should never have been imposed on him by the RCMP, or by the Court. We are hopeful that he will finally be released from jail without conditions, and can resume pastoring Grace Life church,” said Carpay.
“We look forward appearing in court in May and demanding the government provide evidence that public health restrictions that violate the freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly, expression and association are scientific and are justifiable in a free and democratic country.”
Pastor Patrick Schoenberger of Heights Baptist Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, told LifeSiteNews that he is “thankful” that Coates will soon be released.
“I was very thankful to hear that Pastor James Coates was being released and that most of the charges against him were being dropped. His imprisonment was unjustified, unconstitutional, and a wasteful use of enforcement and legal resources in my opinion,” said Schoenberger.
“There are real criminals that we need to arrest and prosecute in this province. I anticipate that the trial of James Coates in May will be an opportunity to test the justification and the constitutionality of these public health orders, and I will be praying for a decision that will uphold the charter rights of Canadians.”
Heights Baptist, like other Alberta churches, has been admitting worshipers beyond 15 percent capacity and does not make its churchgoers wear masks.
Aylmer, Ontario, Church of God Pastor Henry Hildebrandt has been a vocal supporter of Coates, even making a trip out to Alberta to be at a protest at Coates’ jail to demand his release.
On Twitter today, Hildebrandt wrote, “Praise God! Pastor James Coates will be released from jail.”
In February, Coates’ wife Erin said to a large crowd gathered at the jail where her husband is being held that the best way to protest her husband’s imprisonment is to “open your churches.”
Since the jailing of Coates, Kenney, and his UCP government have come under increased fire from many who oppose lockdowns, including some MLAs within his party base, including MLA Drew Barnes of Medicine Hat.
Anger over Kenney grew so loud as of late that according to a CBC report, many within the party have openly called for a leadership review.
Last Friday, it was reported that an internal email from the UCP stated that indeed there will be a leadership review for Kenney, however, it will not take place until 2022.
Recently, the Kenney’s provincial government allowed retail businesses an increase in occupancy limits, but offered no such increase to churches, which remain capped at 15 percent.
To be able to ease restrictions as part of Stage Three, the number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 must be under 300. As of this writing, Alberta lists 260 COVID-related patients in the hospital, with 44 in ICU, which is well below the required Stage Three benchmarks.
A LifeSiteNews petition to release Pastor James Coates from jail had been signed by over 33,000 people. A VoterVoice campaign, asking people to contact their members of parliament and protest the incarceration of Coates has also been widely used.
Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney
Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6
Email: [email protected]
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